Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says a “bug in the system” with its race strategy software caught out the team during the Virtual Safety Car period during the Australian Grand Prix to allow Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to take victory.

After Romain Grosjean stopped on track at the exit of turn 2, with Haas suffering a pit stop wheel issue, the Virtual Safety Car was used to slow the cars down to allow a safe extraction of the stricken Haas car.

With Lewis Hamilton having already pitted for fresh tyres before the Virtual Safety Car period, the mid-race twist provided Ferrari with the chance to pit Vettel and with the reigning F1 world champion’s on-track speed restrainted the German driver got back out ahead from his pit stop in the lead.

Wolff says an internal investigation will be carried out by Mercedes and admits the team were misguided on the time difference needed to stay ahead of Vettel if he pitted under the Virtual Safety Car period.

“I believe we have a software issue with the VSC delta, a situation we haven’t had yet, with a special situation of cars on track one going at high speed and others going at slow speeds,” Wolff told Sky F1. “Simply the gap that we needed was wrongly calculated in our systems.

“I think the way the algorithms are set up, the way the computer has been programmed [was at fault]. We always had the green light with the gap enough for us to stay ahead and then we saw the TV pictures and it wasn’t enough. We have a bug somewhere that told us we needed 15 seconds but we actually only had 12 seconds which was meant to be enough, but it wasn’t.”

Wolff puts the result of the Australian race down to luck, with Vettel holding off Hamilton’s late race chare to take victory in the 2018 F1 opener, and is eager to see the error resolved for future races.

“We had lucky moments before but we were unlucky today,” he said. “We just need to give credit to Ferrari for the first and third finish.

“We got punched in the face today and we got punched in the face yesterday. Everybody said that we are going to runaway easy with 20 victories or whatever but I’ve said that is not the case as it is very close at the top.”

 

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